School blogs are becoming increasing popular ways for students to work creatively and collaboratively, share there work with the world and receive feedback from peers, teachers and parents & governers. This meets the Ofsted criteria for outstanding use of ICT.
This post explains how to set up a school-wide blog system under your own domain, allowing comments and contributions from staff and students, and different blog sites for each department and/or year group. It should take no more than 10 minutes to work through.
1. Buy a domain name
You can use your existing domain – talk to your IT department about this – but it’s probably quicker and easier to buy your own. You can do this through any number of hosting companies (my company, ecowebhosting.co.uk, charges £5.99+VAT for 2 years, and then £4.99+VAT per month for hosting on the Standard package, which includes everything you need. Alternatively, you can host it on your current school servers – again, ask your IT department about this.
Keep the domain name simple – stmichaelschoolblog.org.uk for example, so that people can remember it.
2. Install WordPress
This can be done with a click from most hosts (or with a few kind words to your IT department) and setup is very quick. Choose Multi-user (subdomains or folders – if you’re not sure which, go for folders). The main account will be the administrator account, from where you can create blogs for each department, year group or class.
3. Choose a theme
There are thousands of free themes at http://wordpress.org/themes/. Pick one you like, and then click Appearance –> Themes in your WordPress admin area and search for and install the theme.
4. Set up Multisite
This is the trickiest step – you might want to get your IT department to do this for you. Go to Tools –> Network Setup, enter the settings you want and make the changes to the files requested. The files are in the webspace for the domain – if you’re not sure what that is, find a techie person, or leave a note in the comments and I’ll help you out.
You’ll be prompted to log out and log in again, and you’ll now have a My Sites menu in the top left of the screen. Hover over it, and click Network Admin.
5. Add your first site
Click Create a new site and enter the details for your first site (perhaps for your English department, or form 7A). You should put the email address of the teacher that will be managing that site, and they will be sent the admin login details.
Once the site it is created, you can edit options like the theme for it in the same way as for other sites.
6. Allow students to sign up
Finally, click My Sites (top left) –> Network Admin and then click Setting –> Network Settings. Tick the option ‘User accounts may be registered’. Students will then have the ability to sign up and create accounts.
That’s it! There’s a lot more you can do with WordPress – it’s well documented online, and is reasonably easy to use – but this guide should be enough to get you and your students blogging. Good luck, and let me know how it goes in the comments!